Trump Slams Schiff's Fake Ukraine Quotes: 'Treason?'
In his outraged tweetstorm Monday morning, President Donald Trump turned his ire against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for fabricating fake quotes and seemingly attributing them to Trump in his July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump has demanded Schiff resign from Congress, but on Monday he went further, suggesting the congressman might be guilty of treason.
"Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?" the president tweeted.
Last Thursday, Schiff used his remarks at a House Intelligence Committee hearing to put words in the president's mouth. He declared that in the transcript of the July 25 call, "This is the essence of what the president communicates: We've been very good to your country, very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don't see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want, I have a favor I want from you, though. And I'm going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good."
"I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand, lots of it, on this and on that. I'm going to put you in touch with people, not just any people, I'm going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my attorney general, Bill Barr," Schiff continued, supposedly not acting as if he were quoting the president. "And I'm going to put you in touch with Rudy, you’re going to love him, trust me. ... And by the way, don't call me again. I'll call you when you've done what I asked."
These remarks bore no resemblance to Trump's actual words with Zelensky, and Schiff later brushed off criticism of his fake quotes by calling them a parody. Yet it seems the Democrat was attempting to mislead the American people about the transcript in order to prop up the Democrats' impeachment inquiry based on that call. During the call, Trump asked Zelensky to help Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate potential corruption involving Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden. Democrats have spun this as Trump asking a foreign power to intervene in the 2020 presidential election.
On Sunday, Trump condemned Schiff, saying the congressman "fraudulently and illegally inserted his made up & twisted words into my call with the Ukrainian President to make it look like I did something very wrong. He then boldly read those words to Congress and millions of people, defaming & libeling me. He must resign from Congress!"
Trump is right to complain, and Schiff's action was disgusting, but when the president went on to suggest Schiff should be arrested for treason, he went way too far.
The Constitution defines treason:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
Schiff's twisting of the president's words was horrendous and deserves widespread condemnation. He used fake quotes to make the July 25 Ukraine call seem far worse than it actually was. However, nothing about this action involved "levying War" against the U.S. or adhering to America's enemies.
Treason means something, and it is important to adhere to the Constitution's definition of the term. When former Gov. Bill Weld (R-Mass.) — who is running against Trump in the 2020 Republican primary — accused Trump of treason, he was entirely off base. Similarly, Trump's suggestion that Schiff's fake quotes may involve treason is also ridiculous.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.